Frederick Clayton Spann – Colonel, United States Army

Courtesy of his classmates, United States Military Academy

Frederick Clayton Spann
No. 13167  •  3 January 1920 – 25 June 2001
Died in Alexandria, Virginia, aged 81
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery




Frederick Clayton Spann was born in 1920 in Montgomery, Alabama, the oldest of three children of George Frederick and Virginia Clayton Spann. Fred was introduced early to the military life when, while still a toddler, his father, a regular army officer, was stationed in France. There, Fred learned to speak French before learning English. While
growing up, his family continued to move often.

Fred attended grade schools and high schools in six different states, as well as in the District of Columbia. With his exposure to the Army life, he wanted to attend West Point and create a career in the military. When his father was assigned to the Army Industrial College in Washington, D.C., Fred graduated from Wilson High School and attended the famous Millard’s West Point preparatory school. He won a coveted presidential appointment and entered West Point with the Class of January 1943.

Fred enjoyed his years at West Point. With no academic problems, he graduated in the upper third of the class and enjoyed participating in football, basketball, and lacrosse. During his first class year, Fred met the lovely Isabel Bishop from Long Island, New York, on a “blind” date. They were married in the West Point Chapel on 16 September 1943.

Upon graduation, Fred selected Field Artillery as his branch and joined Battery C, 338th Field Artillery Battalion, 88th Infantry Division. In September, following their marriage at West Point, Fred and Isabel enjoyed only a two-day honeymoon before returning to the division in San Antonio, Texas. Their time together was cut short when the 88th Division departed for North Africa in December l943. After a brief period of mountain and survival training, the division entered the Italian campaign in the Caserta area in February 1944 and was soon assigned a front line sector in Fifth Army. As spring approached, the Division, with Allied assistance, mounted an attack that penetrated German defenses and made the liberation of Rome possible. The division entered Rome on 4 June, but promptly moved north toward Florence and the Arno River as the Germans grudgingly retreated.

In the spring of 1945, the division participated in the final Allied offensive driving the Germans across the Po River, into the Alps — and to surrender on 2 May 1945. In August, after serving as firing battery executive officer and headquarters battery commander for 12 months in combat in Italy, Fred departed to attend the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

After completing CGSC, Fred received his first assignment in the missile field when he joined the 1st Antiaircraft Guided Missile Battalion at Fort Bliss, Texas. For the next two years at White Sands, Fred worked closely with famed German scientist Werner Von Braun and participated in 21 V-2 missile firings. During this tour, Fred and Isabel welcomed their first-born, Clayton Lee. The next two years were spent at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, graduating with a master’s degree in electrical engineering. It was during this assignment that Fred and Isabel’s second child, Julianne, was born.

After a three-year tour at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and the advanced course at The Field Artillery School, Fred was assigned to the G-3 training division, Headquarters, U.S.  Army, Europe, in Heidelberg, Germany. In 1957, he returned to Fort Sill where he served three years with the Department of Communications and Electronics. Fred and Isabel welcomed their third child, Joan Pauline, during that tour.

In 1960, Fred was commander of the Corporal Missile Battalion at Fort Carson, Colorado. In 1962, he activated and commanded the first Sergeant missile battalion in the field artillery at Fort Sill. Following these two prestigious command positions, Fred spent a year in Vietnam beginning in March l963 as G-5 strategic hamlet advisor.

Fred returned to the States to serve a tour in the Pentagon with research and development and then attended the Army War College where he was promoted to Colonel. He then held positions of high responsibility with the TACFIRE Program, Computer Systems Command, for 6½ years at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Fred remained there until his retirement in 1973. His service decorations included the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Star medals, and two Army Commendation medals.

Fred and Isabel settled in Alexandria, Virginia, where Fred began a 17-year career as Senior Engineer with Raytheon Service Company in Arlington, Virginia. After his second retirement, Fred devoted more time to volunteer activities, principally to St. James Episcopal, the Mount Vernon Chapter of The Retired Officers Association, and General George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate.

On Memorial Day 2001, 28 May, Fred suddenly became seriously ill and died of cardiac arrest 28 days later. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Isabel; three children, Clayton, Julie Foster, and Joan Evensen; and five grandsons.

In all his work, both professional and volunteer, Fred’s life was characterized by his integrity, high sense of duty, lofty principles, and service to others. But there was another very significant part of Fred’s life — his total devotion and love for his family. As his children reflected and gave tribute to their father during his memorial service, the family returned that love and devotion. In part, that tribute read,

“To Duty, Honor, Country, you can add family. His kindness and strength, his patience and wisdom, were the bedrock of our family. He was there for us every time without fail. Even in his retirement years we relied on him so much. We will miss him dearly . . .”

To this beautiful tribute, others can only add their expression of good fortune in having Fred as an associate and friend. West Point and the Class of January 1943 take pride in this distinguished graduate in the Long Gray Line.

From a contemporary press report:

Frederick Clayton Spann, 81, an Alexandria resident since 1966 and a retired Army colonel who served from 1943 to 1973, died June 25, 2001, of cardiac arrest at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital.

Colonel Spann was a senior engineer at the Arlington offices of Raytheon Corp. from 1973 to 1990.

He was born in Montgomery, Alabama, and raised partly in the Washington area. He graduated from Wilson High School and was a 1943 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy. He received a master's degree in engineering from Johns Hopkins University in the 1950s.

He was a battery commander of a field artillery unit in Europe during World War II. In the 1940s, he helped test captured German missile technology in White Sands, New Mexico. He served as a strategic hamlet adviser in Vietnam in the 1960s. His
decorations include two awards of the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Stars and the Army Commendation Medal.

When he moved to the Washington area, he served in the computer systems command at Fort Belvoir.

He was a member of St. James Episcopal Church in Alexandria and had headed its Meals on Wheels program since 1998. He also volunteered at Junior ROTC programs at  Northern Virginia high schools and coached children's softball.

He served recently on the board of the Mount Vernon chapter of the Retired Officers Association and volunteered at President George Washington's Mount Vernon estate.

Survivors include his wife of 58 years, Isabel Spann of Alexandria; three children, Clayton L., of Arlington, Julianne Foster of Newton, Mass., and Joan Evensen of Batavia, Ill.; two sisters; and five grandchildren.


On Monday, June 25, 2001 at Mt. Vernon Hospital, husband of Isabel B. Spann; father of Clayton L. Spann, Julianne Foster and Joan Evensen; brother of Nora Chandler and Helen Cornish. Also survived by five grandsons, Michael, Robert, Kenneth, Thomas and William. Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 at 9 a.m. at Fort Myer Chapel. Interment Arlington National Cemetery. Contributions may be made to the West Point Fund or St. James' Episcopal Church at Mt. Vernon, 5614 Old Mill Rd., Alexandria, VA 22309.

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